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The Japanese team won the Little League World Series over the weekend. We heard Friday about Japanese Little League baseball culture with its intense focus on fundamentals and practice and the way of the baseball. Today we have the results. Here's Tim Lambert of our member station WITF.
TIM LAMBERT, BYLINE: Since 1947, only 17 winning teams racked up double-digits in runs during the championship game of the Little League World Series. The number of finals where both teams did it - zero - until now, that is. Tokyo's Kitasuna Little League and Red Land Little League of south-central Pennsylvania put on an offensive show yesterday - the likes of which had never been seen in the title game. When the smoke cleared, Japan had an 18-11 win, and its 10th Little League World Championship, leaving Pennsylvania wanting for a 56th straight year. After Tokyo grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, Red Land's offensive might went on display with a grand-slam home run by Dylan Rodenhaber...
LAMBERT: ...Followed quickly by a three-run home run by Jaden Henline.
LAMBERT: Red Land scored 10 runs in the bottom of the first inning - a world championship game record. It gave Red Land - after only one inning - a 10-2 lead. And they seemed poised to claim the little league crown. But Manager Tom Peifer was a little bit uneasy about things.
TOM PEIFER: I guess my thought was it's too good to be true. As a coach, you know, I cannot believe this is happening. But, you know, some of the at-bats they put together....
LAMBERT: To say the least. Tokyo answered, and answered quickly with nine runs in the top of the second inning, including back-to-back-to-back round trippers.
LAMBERT: By the end of the third inning, Tokyo was in full control of the game after adding another four runs for a 13-11 lead. It set a Little League World Series tournament record by overcoming an eight-run deficit. Red Land's Peifer says he was impressed how the Japanese hitters just kept putting the bat on the ball and finding holes in his team's defense.
PEIFER: They were hitting pitches that I'd never seen kids - especially 12-year-old kids - hit.
LAMBERT: As Tokyo kept piling up the runs, a soft-throwing throwing Japanese left-hander was silencing the Red Land bats. Pitcher Nobuyuki Kawashima lived in San Diego for four years and speaks fluent English. His manager brought him in to start the second inning.
NOBUYUKI KAWASHIMA: He told me before the game if the fast ball doesn't work too well on them, he will go with me because I'm more of a breaking ball kind of type.
LAMBERT: Kawashima threw five innings of two-hit ball. He faced a hometown crowd of more than 42,000 cheering for Red Land. Kawashima says while the fans intimidated some of his teammates, he took a different approach.
KAWASHIMA: Before I pitch, everybody told me that, you know, I lived in the USA so I think you're used to the call. So I just thought of the crowd's call as mine.
LAMBERT: Despite the loss, Red Land's effort did not go unnoticed. The team bus was greeted all along the 90-mile ride home by groups of fans - large and small, capped off with a fire truck escort. Tokyo Kitasuna returns home with their third Little League title. For NPR News, I'm Tim Lambert at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, PA.
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